On Monday, as part of his presentation, Jackson described a bit about how everyday people have become significant influencers for brands due to the quality and ubiquity of the social media they produce related to specific products. Coincidentally, on Tuesday, I found myself learning from Eric Nyman, Vice President of Marketing at Hasbro, how social media has played a role in the development and evolution of certain products. Drawing on his experience and perspective from over a dozen years as a marketer for prolific brands such as Hasbro, Dunkin, Timberland, and Lego, Eric cited the relevance of social media to brands that we’re already highly familiar with. That is, social media offers a) Multiple channels through which to increase brand recognition b) Methods to cultivate communities of product users c) High return on investment d) The ability to establish and learn from customer engagement. It is this last benefit that I seek to elaborate on using examples from Hasbro product lines.
Nerf or Nothing
I’m ashamed to admit that even into my teenage years, I played an immense amount with Nerf toys, specifically the “blasters” (Nerf’s word for guns that shoot foam darts, balls, and other projectiles). My friends and I would have epic Nerf battles throughout our neighborhood, much to the displeasure of our neighbors. A couple of weeks ago, I Tweeted out a link to a New York Times article about the trend of parents being over protective of kids and not letting them “roam free” as me and my buddies would do as part of our “Nerf wars.” Contrary to the suggestions of the article, there are still a huge amount of kids who play freely outdoors and with Nerf blasters in hand. Not only is America’s youth still having Nerf wars, but the advent of camera phones and GoPros has enabled kids to videotape their battles and then post them on YouTube. Production of these videos has a broad range but they are hugely popular. One of my favorite, a semi-staged video entitled “NERF War: Protect and Secure” by NerfBoyProductions has a dedicated cameraman (instead of one of the participants filming the action), involves a four wheeler, and clearly made use of editing software. It has gained over 1.2 million views!
An astounding 188,000 Nerf-related videos from kids age 5-18 years old have been posted on YouTube which have gained over 1.7 billion views. One of the notable creators and producers of Nerf videos on YouTube is Dude Perfect which is not simply one “dude” but a group of five best (male) friends and a Panda (no, not a REAL panda but someone dressed in a panda suit). To me, Dude Perfect seems like a handful of stuck-in-child-mode young men (one of them even has a beard) with way too much time on their hands, but the extremely challenging shots they devise with their Nerf weaponry is highly entertaining. And Nerf has taken notice. Reports Sportingnews.com:
“Marketers such as Gatorade, General Motors, LG, and Nerf have teamed with Dude Perfect to create sponsored videos. The Dudes are almost as good at native ads as they are at trick shots. They’ve become experts at weaving brands and products into videos. For a price of course.”
If all of the YouTube action weren’t enough enough, the Twitter hashtag “nerfornothing” is highly active, providing followers with information on new products and links to Nerf videos on both YouTube and Vine.
Monopoly Here and Now Edition
I also grew up playing a lot of Monopoly and was intrigued to learn about a recent initiative, highly driven via social media, that has contributed to a new edition of the game. In September 2006, the U.S. edition of Monopoly Here and Now was released. The edition features top landmarks across the U.S. which were plugged into the game thanks to fan voting via the Internet in the spring of 2006. This year marks the game’s 80th birthday, and has prompted Hasbro to initiate another online vote in order to determine which cities will make it into an updated version of the Here and Now. However, this time around Hasbro will release a World edition with the top-voted cities from all around the world. To market the game and gain voters, Hasbro teamed up with social news and entertainment company BuzzFeed to facilitate voting at www.VoteMONOPOLY.com. Additionally, Hasbro publicized the opportunity to vote via Twitter (using the hashtag #VoteMONOPOLY) and through its Facebook site. Voting just closed out on March 4th but not before 4 million fans registered their votes. The winning global destinations to be used in the new edition of Here and Now appear below.
Though Monopoly has been played by more than one billion people in 114 countries around the world, you have to assume that this vote-for-new-woldwide-destinations initiative and related social media campaign may result in an increase in those numbers.
Another classic game, but one that I didn’t spend much time playing as a kid, is Twister. Surprisingly, the game has a strong presence on social media which is contributing to its continued popularity. The product has broadened from the original mat and spin dial game that you’re probably most aware of to additional toys and games that get younger people moving and have an emphasis on girls health. New products under the Twister brand such as Skip It are now being endorsed by actress, singer, and songwriter Demi Lovatic on videos that appear on YouTube.
Demi Lovato’s sponsorship of Twister products has extended onto Twitter when Lovatics (the label for loyal Demi Lovato followers) and Twitter fans got together on March 10th to play “The Biggest Game of Twister Ever.” At 4pm that day, Demi took over the Twister Twitter handle “@Twister” and issued moves to worldwide players. After Demi called out/posted moves, it was up to fans to take a photo or video of their moves to match Demi’s instructions and tweet it back to her (@Twister with the hashtag #LetsMove).
I love the nostalgia of Nerf, Monopoly, Twister, and other games from the Hasbro brand. It interesting to see that Hasbro hasn’t sat idly allowing such games to “collect dust,” but has leveraged technology and social media to keep them appealing to newer and current-day audiences. Additionally, the global reach of tools like Twitter and YouTube has allowed the brand to gain a stronger worldwide reach and build larger communities of fans.
In closing, I think it’s appropriate to note that Eric seemed to posit that social media will have an ever-expanding role in the marketing of Hasbro products. He realizes that neither he nor others at Hasbro really have much control over the social media posts that Hasbro game users create related to the company’s games and toys. However, ultimately, the extremely creative nature of such posts and the high number of eyeballs that they reach are currently an immense force multiplier for, and huge benefit to, the Hasbro brand.